2021 is a special year for the Alabama Press Association.
That also makes it a great time to check in with Executive Director Felicia Mason for this month’s Relevant Question-and-Answer, our fourth installment in the Newspaper Association Managers series.
Learn what APA has planned to mark its 150th year, what Felicia likes most and least about her leadership role, and what sport she’s a champion.
The Relevance Project also thanks Felicia for her continued support.
Can you introduce us to your association?
The Alabama Press Association is the oldest trade association in Alabama. We are celebrating 150 years in 2021. Currently, there are 110 active member newspapers, along with 20 associate member publications, several magazines and most major businesses, universities and state agencies who support the newspaper industry.
Congratulations on your 150th year. How are you celebrating this extraordinary anniversary?
COVID-19 put a damper on our celebration planning. We did not have an in-person winter meeting, and we were unsure about the summer convention plans until last March.
Our governor will attend and present a proclamation at the opening reception of our Summer Convention. We also have been publishing excerpts from our history book — published to mark the 125th anniversary — in weekly communication with members.
We will have special recognitions throughout the Summer Convention, as well as slideshows of old photos playing at events.
What has been your career path?
I came to APA in 1987, after graduating from the University of Alabama. I sold ads for The Crimson White, the student newspapers at UA, while I was in school. I would still be there if it had not been a student position. It is how I paid my tuition, etc. I became APA’s executive director in 2000.
How would you describe your position and role to someone outside the newspaper industry?
Even my family isn’t real sure what I do. I think the best way to describe my job is to say I am in a support role for the men and women who put out Alabama’s daily and non-daily newspapers. I often compare APA to the dental, medical or trial lawyer associations — just that we represent newspapers.
I also include that we are usually the only group that lobbies the state Legislature on open meetings and open records issues. Most people do not think about access to government activities until they are denied.
What do you like best about your job?
I am fortunate to work WITH a great group of people and FOR a great group of people. There are three of us at APA who have been here more than 30 years. We are more like family than co-workers.
I truly admire and respect our members for the work they do. It is often a thankless job, but the work they do is vital to their communities.
What is your proudest career moment?
In spite of my answer above, we successfully lobbied the state Legislature to pass a new Alabama Open Meetings Act in 2005. The new law made much needed improvements to our outdated law.
What are some of the 2021 priorities for you and your association?
We are focusing on our sales efforts — both print and digital. I think the best thing we can do for our members is to send ads to them!
We also have been working on a new Open Records Act, but that has been a slow process. We will keep trying.
Personally, I want to get out and visit with our members more. They always seem to appreciate the time and effort when we take the time to visit.
How has the COVID-19 experience changed your association? Can you share any lessons?
I think we learned that we can stay connected with conference calls and Zoom meetings, but I hope we don’t see these as replacements for our in-person meetings. I would like to use more virtual meetings for training sessions, but not for other meetings.
What keeps you up at night when wrestling with challenges?
The shrinking newsrooms are a concern to me. We need our newspapers to be involved locally and maintain a visible presence in their communities.
If you had unlimited resources to advance our industry, where would you invest your time and money?
I would make sure all of our newspapers had an impressive online presence, and at the same time keeping their core products fresh and innovative.
What is something most people don’t know about you?
I used to be an Olympic gymnast.
I was once the bowling champion in a league of ad agencies.
What do you like to do outside of work?
I like to travel.
How would your advice differ when offered to someone trying to break into the business compared with an industry veteran with 10 to 15 years until retirement?
Find ways to connect with millennials and learn from them.
Never be afraid of change.
The Alabama Press Association is the state trade association of daily and weekly newspapers in Alabama.
Active members must have been published weekly under a Publications Class (Second Class) Postal Permit for a period of one year.
Founded in 1971 as the Editors and Publishers Association of Alabama, the name was changed to Alabama Press Association in 1891.
APA represents the interests of the newspaper industry by offering two annual conferences and a number of workshops and conferences. It also represents the newspaper industry before the state legislature, focusing on government access laws and on business-related laws that impact the newspaper industry. It also offers media law advice to active member newspapers through its APA Legal Hotline, media law guides and offers a number of other services.
APA acts as a clearinghouse of information that it provides to members through its monthly newsletter, AlaPressa, and its semi-annual tabloid, The Alabama Publisher. In addition, it publishes an annual newspaper directory and semi-annual advertising rate updates. The APA staff also seeks to help members find answers to problems and challenges they face by referring them to other members or to experts outside the membership.
From time to time, APA pays for readership research that it provides to member newspapers.
Source: APA website